The post that I wrote the other day had an unexpectedly powerful effect on me. Basically, Jesus was addressing Bill’s mental stance of disengagement and disinterest. This stance left him so lacking in vitality that he had trouble mustering the necessary focus and concentration to practice the Course. Jesus’ answer was basically “Swim the other way. You’ve got the energy; just use it.”
This really had an effect on me. What I realized is that I am constantly “going with the flow,” by which I mean going with what my mind habitually wants to do. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’m telling myself, “I can’t really do otherwise. I don’t have what it takes to resist that flow.”
Jesus saying to Bill, “Just go against the flow,” snapped me out of it. Specifically, it made me realize that I am basically lying to myself all the time. I tell myself, “It’s too much to really do this now”—“this” being all sorts of things, including my practice as it really should be done.
This takes the form of all sorts of excuses I tell myself: “I just don’t have the energy.” “I can’t control these thoughts.” “If I resist these impulses too much, I’ll just create a backlash.” There are probably a million such excuses. But they are really just lies. I actually do know better. It’s just convenient to act as if I don’t.
Jesus is clearly wise to our excuses/self-deceptions. For instance, a sensitive reading of Review III in the Workbook (as it appears in Helen’s notes), suggests that we tell ourselves the following excuse about doing our practice periods: “I am not going to force myself to do my practice period here. After all, I don’t want to make some kind of ritual out of this thing.” Yet this is what we are actually thinking: “I prefer instead to do something else, something which really amounts to singing a litany to the worldly gods I worship. This practice period is thus threatening to get in the way of my real rituals.”
I have a thing about self-deception. I don’t like, or so I say. The fact is that I really eschew it in certain areas and habitually rely on it in others. A line from Helen’s notes struck me recently: “There is nothing as tragic as the attempt to deceive one’s self, because it implies that you perceive yourself as so unworthy that deception is more fitting for you than truth.”
So since writing that post the other day, I have been all over my practice. I’ve been more faithful than I have in months. This alone shows me that I’ve been deceiving myself. No matter how much I tell myself that in the face of the river of my usual impulses, I can’t swim the other way, Jesus is completely correct: I can.